Family and Christmas

Christmas is coming!  With the help of our youngest daughters and some of our grandkids, I finished all the wrapping a couple days ago– always an accomplishment with this big crew.  The little ones were sworn to secrecy– we’ll see how well that works!

Way back in September I had the fond idea that I was going to do a lot of the wrapping in cloth gift bags, but that didn’t remotely materialize, tho a few gifts do have cloth bags.  Ah well.  Paper bought on last-January-clearance prices worked nicely too.

We already had a nice early Christmas dinner with John’s family which was lots of fun. We made pulled pork and cheesy potatoes for dinner, along with lots of lovely sides and salads brought by our guests. So that left me time to fuss over the table which was fun.

Above is a photo of the table– all 20 feet of it– before everyone arrived, and another of it full of family.  I think there were 27 of us there.  What a blessing!


I also tried a new fudge recipe that we ended up liking pretty well.  It was much easier than other fudge I’ve made– and sometimes had failures with.  Here’s the website with the recipe.  All I did to get the dark chocolate version was substitute dark chocolate chips instead of white.  I also did a tiny dusting of sea salt for that sweet- salty flavor.

Here’s the family photo we got this fall.  Last year two of our clan were working and couldn’t make it.  This year we were only missing one.  Maybe next year we’ll get everyone!  In any case, here are some of the most precious faces in the world to me– love seeing so many of us together.

John and the girls and I have been watching a Christmas movie or two a week during this month.  Our perennial favorites are ones probably very familiar to you as well: White Christmas, Eloise at Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, The Nativity, Muppet Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street and The Santa Claus  (1 and 3 are our favorites.)  Though I know lots of people love it, Elf gets mixed reviews at our house — 15 year old Emily can’t get over a grown man acting like a little boy.  Home Alone is not a hit either– 13 year old Julianna still finds it horrifying that the poor little kid got left.  🙂

We’ve also watched a few newer movies on Netflix that I thought might be fun to mention.

Last night we watched Back to Christmas, which gets 1 star for the acting, but there was a bit of funny dialog that brought it up to MAYBE 2 stars for me.  Not a total loss.

Last week we watched A Christmas Prince, which we gave a good solid 3 stars.  This one kinda reminded me of the Princess Diaries, but it was cute and the ending was not as predictable as we expected.  We enjoyed this one.

Last year a new favorite was The Spirit of Christmas. We enjoyed this one a lot and rated this one 4 stars.  It would be a little scary for younger kids, as it is also kind of a murder mystery, but we liked this one enough to watch it twice.

Have you watched anything on Netflix that you’ve enjoyed recently?

Here’s hoping that your Christmas is warm and enjoyable and family-filled!

From our Christmas

Happy New Year! Did you have a good Christmas? Ours was a really sweet time of getting together with many of our loved ones. One of the things about having lots of grown kids is that it gets harder and harder to get everyone gathered together. I now fully understand why when my mom has ALL her kids together for holiday she has such a joyful glow. We didn’t see everyone, but maybe next time.

Our home turned out to work absolutely beautifully for a big crowd. I was able to set up tables for 40 on Christmas Eve, in just the dining room and kitchen, leaving the whole living room wide open for lots of seating.

Christmas Eve morning we had our kids and grandkids over, along with their spouses and significant others.  The grandkids are definitely the easiest to shop for, and it is fun to see the little ones enjoying their goodies.

Christmas Eve evening was the party for my family — that’s when the tables for 40 came into play.

Our relatives brought so much of the feast that the hosting was almost easy.  We set up tables, made sure there were drinks and tables settings, and suppplied one dessert.  Then the rest of the family literally did everything, including my mom’s legendary clam chowder served in bread bowls.  Yum!

The sweet turquoise chairs are going over to the beach house in February, and turned out to have a bonus– they fit two adults, as long as the adults like each other OK  :).   And we pulled extra seating from other places in the house as well, making it really a great place for a lot of people to hang out.

Family game time

Along with doing the My Favorite Things exchange (boy, the loot was good this year!!–) my sister also planned some fun ‘minute to win it’ kind of games that were a really fun addition to the celebration. Watching the fun was just about as much fun as participating.

Christmas Day there was more partying, this time with John’s side of the family.  Good fun was had by all, with a cousin picture tossed in there for good measure.

All in all, it felt like a great success, and I honestly loved having everyone there to visit. We are blessed.

This week we are going to try to get over to the beach house, if we can make it out through the current snowstorm in the Treasure Valley– eek! And then in February we will probably be able to start moving things into the house, as our contractor is hoping to have it done by the middle of the month. Exciting times! Hope your Christmas was good also. What do you have going in the new year?

A million angels crowding in to see

“Just A Girl”

I wonder if you’ve heard the story
Of little fame and lesser glory
The night the keeper of the inn
The little town of Bethlehem
Encountered Joseph and his Mary
About to birth the Savior of the world

His wife said go and see who’s knocking
He ran down to the gate unlocked it
The moment he heard Mary’s cry
He couldn’t look them in the eye
Denied them and went back to bed
When his wife asked who was there
He said I don’t know

Just a girl
Just a couple gypsies begging at the door
Told them we don’t have room for anymore
And closed the door
It was just a girl

He tried to sleep and wasn’t able
He snuck out to the dirty stable
The two had found for covering
And laid her in her suffering
The keeper knelt outside the barn
And in the light of that great star
He prayed what have I done

He’s just a babe
Just minutes old there trembling in the hay
I could have found a room for them to stay
I’m so ashamed
He’s just a babe

There was no robe
There was no crown
The shepherds stood
On royal ground
The keeper wept
For what he’d done
He turned away
God’s own Son

Just a King
Just a million angels crowding in to see
Jesus there among humanity

Just a babe
Just minutes old there trembling in the hay
Staring at his mother in the face
She’s just a girl

Just a girl
Does she even know that she just changed the world
Does she even know that He will save the world
Does Mary know that He will save the world
She’s just a girl
Just a girl
Just a girl

How can it be?

Am I the only one surprised we are already halfway through December?  The girls and I went on a wrapping spree this evening and got the vast majority of the gifts wrapped, so that feels really good.  I have a few last errant things to track down, but mostly my shopping is done too.  But I am still feeling like there is lots to do this next week. Not sure if that is actually true, or if that is just the way I am in the habit of feeling the week before Christmas.

We are having lots of company for Christmas and I am so excited!  Last year, with all the delays in closing on our new home, we ended up doing Christmas at our old house one last time.  It was actually very, very sweet.  But ever since we found our new home way back in October last year, I’ve been envisioning it as the perfect Christmas house.  Here’s a photo of a tiny dab of the Christmas decor so far.


I am really looking forward to packing out the house and seeing how it works. Christmas Eve morning it’ll be mostly the kids and the grandkids– I am crossing my fingers that some of my teen boys won’t have to work, but probably it’ll be somewhere around 18 of us.  (Below is a photo of sweet Wilona having fun playing with several of our manger scenes.)  I am hoping Christmas Eve morning will be relaxed, lowkey…gather up our precious ones and eat breakfast together and open presents.


Christmas Eve evening will be the biggest shindig, since many of my brothers and sisters will be coming with their families.  I am expecting somewhere in the range of 40 or so. My mom and dad will be making clam chowder in bread bowls as usual– yum!  And then everyone else will fill in with sides and desserts.The kids will be doing a gift exchange and the adults will be doing a ‘my favorite things‘ exchange as we have for the past several years.

Here are the favorite things I went with this year: Nivea hand cream, Mrs. Meyers geranium hand  soap, and Mrs. Meyers lavender everyday cleaner.  These are all items I really like, and I think together they’ll make a fun goodie basket.

Christmas Day we are hosting John’s family for the noon meal– altogether I am expecting 30 or so of us. By then the majority of our gifting is done, so the focus is just visiting and catching up, since we don’t tend to see each other too many other times of the year.

At both of the bigger gatherings other folks will be bringing the majority of the food, so my main job will be to pull together drinks and tables. (Piece of cake, right??)  I’ve been having great fun on Pinterest looking at tablescapes.  You can see my most recent pins here: Pinterest Christmas.  I’ve been most inspired by rustic-looking decor, so I expect to be doing something with pine cones and candles and most likely canning jars, since I have lots of those. I found some fun flameless candles to put down the length of the table that will probably end up as fun and safe ambience at the beach house also. For the largest gathering we will probably be doing three long tables.  So much fun.  I am hoping I will actually remember to take photos for you.

And of course you can’t have Christmas without dessert.  I have lots of roasted pumpkin in theold-fashioned-coconut-cream-pie_11361 freezer from our fall pumpkin.  (Remember this ancient post?  Wow, that was a long time ago!)  I’m also planning on making at least one or two of these lovely concoctions.  I am a sucker for cream pies— yum!

What are your plans for Christmas?  Are you scurrying around or are you starting to feel ready?


9 stocking stuffers under $3



Sometimes it can be hard to think of fun small items to use as stocking stuffers. I thought I’d share a few ideas that I’ve seen on Amazon, and I’m hoping you’ll chime in and add your own ideas.

Nivea Hand Cream is wonderful, and these little tins are small enough to fit perfectly into a purse or pocket.  I carry mine in my pocket at work to counter-act the effects of washing my hands five times an hour all shift long.  It’s great stuff.

Flash lights are always useful.  They can be toys for bored toddlers in the car, grabbed during power outages, or kept in the glove box in case of roadside emergencies.  And what kid doesn’t want to read a book under the covers with a flashlight after bedtime?


Who wouldn’t welcome a nice pair of fuzzy socks especially in cold weather?  I’m kind of hoping someone will buy something this cozy for me!


Chocolate is always a winner.  Here’s a nice big bag of Hershey’s nuggets at a reasonable price. Divvy the bag out between all the stockings you have to fill, and you’ll still have a few left over to munch as you finish up your Santa duties.


Beeswax Natural Lip Balm is another great cold-weather offering, especially this 6-pack that comes in 6 different flavors.


How about a new toothbrush in a fun color?  Maybe not the most exciting gift for a kid, but I’m guessing my newly-moved-out young adults have already developed an appreciation for necessities that they don’t have to buy for themselves.


If you’re shopping for little guys, these pull-back race cars might be just the ticket.  I’m pretty sure that my little granddaughters would enjoy them just about as much as the boys.

These adorable finger puppets would also be a hit with little ones.  What a darling find in a stocking!  If you’re a real over-achiever, you might even be able to find a story book or two featuring some of these adorable little critters.

And if you’ve got guitar-players in your midst, these might be the prettiest guitar picks they’ve ever seen.  The picks feature art by Vincent van Gogh.



OK, now you know a few of my best ideas. (Shhh….don’t tell my kids and grandkids!)   Will you pin this post if you found it useful?  And by all means, share your own affordable ideas in comments, below. I would love to add to this list.


This post contains affiliate links.  Affiliate links don’t raise the cost to you, but they do send a few cents from each purchase to support all the free content here at Owlhaven.


Happy New Year!  It’s been a whirlwind 2 weeks around here– probably the craziest Christmas we’ve ever experienced.  After planning for a month to close on our new house Dec 18th, we had all sorts of delays.  At one point the expected close date was looking to be as late as Dec. 29th.  But then a mini Christmas miracle happened, allowing us to close the 23rd. Too late to do Christmas at the new place  (which turned out to be utterly fine).  But soon enough to move a few things over on the 23rd, and a few more the 25th–  “Merry Christmas, kids!  We’re putting your mattresses in the van!” And then on the 26th, the moving van rolled into our new neighborhood, and it was time to unload that beast.

Thanks to fabulous help from all our kids  (not just the ones living with us)  that entire semi truck was emptied in two hours flat.  And then the slow work began– unpacking all those boxes.  I’ve done little else in the week since Christmas.  But we’re finally winning over all those boxes, and I am just thrilled with how it is all coming together.  Here are a couple shots of our new living room….ahhhhh.

Looking from Front Door Looking from the dining areaWe had most of the kids over for Sunday dinner this week, and instead of the usual press of a mob of us all together, we actually had space to move, even after John and the grandkids dumped out alllll the Legos!  I think it will be a wonderful home for us.

I will show you more photos  soon.  But at  the moment we don’t have internet (it’s coming FRIDAY– hooray!!!  Finally!!!)  so I am very limited in my blogging time. I will call this post good for now, and plan to write much more regularly in this new year!

Oh, and here’s our whole clan on Christmas Eve!

Christmas Ostyns



What we can bring

Way back in 1992, we were living in a cute older house in town, were the happy parents of three tiny children, and were dreaming of homesteading in the country.  Big garden, orchard, chickens, all of it.  When we found a 3 acre piece of land for the princely sum of $13,ooo, we leaped on it.

The next summer, after looking at dozens of house plan books and finding just the right plan, we sold our first house (in 5 days, no less) and began building this one.  The plan was that we would serve as general contracters, subbing out all the parts of the build to various subcontracters.

Finding an affordable rental to live in during the build was made harder by the fact that we had a dog.  We ended up buying two old travel trailers which we paid for on payments– $112 a month. No way we could have found rent that cheap.  We rented an outhouse, drilled a well, and lived right there on that 3 acre stretch of land while we built us a house.

Yes.  Three kids, two parents, a dog, a couple of cats, and a couple of travel trailers.  Our full-size refrigerator, our house plants, and a whole variety of other household items were protected from the weather by nothing more than a cattle chute that we covered with a tarp.  We jokingly called our ramshackle campsite ‘Okietown’.

Now, looking back from the perspective of a parent, I wonder just how worried our parents were about us.  They probably thought we had taken leave of our senses.  Thankfully God watched over that home build.  Our maiden voyage as home contractors went smoothly, and just 3.5 months later, in October of 1993, our home was done and we were moving in.

Just in time.  The weather had already gotten cold enough that I made frosty footprints walking across outdoor carpet each morning from our travel trailer to the kids’ trailer to get them out of bed.  Wow, were ever glad to move into our new home.  It felt like a palace.

Since that happy move-in date in 1993, we’ve added 7 children to our family, had many huge gardens, many happy Christmases, and many years of homeschooling.  We’ve birthed children, adopted children, seen their first steps and their first words and their first Christmas programs and all the other firsts that come with watching children grow.

We’ve read story after story on that old green living room carpet.  We’ve built Lego masterpieces and gathered eggs and bottle-fed baby calves and gone for long lovely walks and even welcomed grandkids into the family who then proceeded to do all the things here that our own children have.

Oh, this has been a good home for us.

We are definitely feeling many pangs of nostalgia.  But we’ve done all we came here to do, and we’re ready for some different pursuits.  And it helps to remember that in leaving the house, we’re not leaving all those amazing memories.  They get to come right along with us, and continue to be a huge part of our children’s childhood.

So we’ll take pictures.  We’ll copy our wall-mounted growth chart to a piece of trim we can mount in our new house, and then use it to document the growth of the grandkids just as it did their parents. We’re breathing deep of the last days we have here in this house.  (Due to a paperwork snafu, we’re getting a few extra bonus days.  In fact, it looks like we get one more Christmas right here.) But we’re also confident that in looking forward to this next adventure, we’re not truly losing all the neat blessings we’ve gained while living here.  It will forever be a part of the memories of a really wonderful part of our lives.

I think also that our very human wish for a lovely home is a beautiful reminder of the only perfect home we will ever experience:  heaven.

I pray that as we all celebrate home and family and love and the miraculous birth of Jesus during this beautiful time of year, we’ll also be joyful thinking of the heavenly home where some day we will celebrate forever.

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!


Kids and gifts. And Jesus.

This is the time of year when my momma-heart wants to give my children the perfect gift. Well, truth be told, always I long to do that, but that longing is huge at Christmas. This year with all the busy-ness of moving, my Christmas gift-hunting feels hampered, what with budget constraints and time restraints and the need to focus on the huge task of moving from one home to another. But still, I think of each of my loved ones when I lie in bed at night.  I’d give them the sun and the moon and the stars, if I could, if that is what will bring them joy.

This time of year also, with all the busy-ness of Christmas, is a time when tempers can flare, when tired-kid tantrums can push a tired momma over the edge, leaving a momma feeling like the strain of all that rampant emotion is too much to bear. Don’t kids understand mom is tired? Busy? Stretched? Trying her darndest to make sure this Christmas will be memorable and special and beautiful?

I know it is completely illogical, but somehow I think if loved ones could just see past my to-do list to my heart, they’d save all their negativity til another month, just set it aside, give me a bit of breathing room.  Because, oh, drama.  I really don’t need it right now.  Let’s have joy and tranquility and understanding and patience instead.

Humans don’t work like that though, do they?  Stress just boils every bit of negativity to the surface, doesn’t it?

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at an angry toddler, or a stubborn teen, and prayed desperately for wisdom great enough, words wise enough, to turn that heart around.   Oh, what a useful power that would be.

Yesterday in church the theme of the sermon was this simple longing: “We wish to see Jesus.”

Oh, yes. That.

But how can that longing guide my momma-heart?  Help meet my children’s needs? Direct their hearts?

I suspect in each situation, each heart is different.  Jesus demonstrated that Himself, in his different approaches to human drama. Sometimes he came to earth in baby humility.

Fisher Price nativity

Other times He threw the money-grubbers out of the temple.  Or healed their broken bodies.  Or fed their hungry tummies.  Or fed their hungry souls.  Or showed beautiful grace in the face of the ugliest of sin.

And then there was the bit where He spread out his arms in love and died, just so we could be in heaven with Him someday.

All love, all the time.  But evidenced in different ways.

I’m not ever going to do love as well as Jesus does.  But in the end it’s not my love, really, that I want my children to see.   I want the words out of my mouth, and the actions of my hands,  and even the gifts under the Christmas tree to show them Jesus.  To remind them of the great love He has for each and every one of them.

In this season of gift-giving, of scurrying, and hurrying to prepare just the right celebration for our loved ones, I pray that I will be able to point my loved ones to the truest, best Lover of their souls.

Whether they know it or not, they wish to see Jesus. May my words, and actions, and attitudes direct them to Him this Christmas.

And always.

We wish to see Jesus.

Fisher Price nativity

The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and freedom to prisoners. -Isaiah 61:1




Things I’m doing this week

I’m sitting here at 5:30 PM in my PJ’s yawning and waiting for my coffee to kick in. After last night’s work, I had a nice long sleep today.  So once I get to work tonight, I’ll be golden, but at the moment it’s PJ’s and yawning for me.

Hard to believe we move in a week. Though we’re getting lots done, my to-do lists don’t seem to be getting shorter. Seems like the emptier the house gets, the more little odds and ends I discover that we really ought to fix up. Am currently wondering if we really truly need to do new bathroom counters as our real estate agent recommended, or if fresh, lovely granite in just the kitchen will be enough.

Here are some of the things I’ve been working on this week.

  • Perfecting my caulking techniques
  • Learning how to install a new range hood
  • Using lots of boxes and packing tape–  we already used up that big-ol pile of boxes I got a couple weeks ago
  • Trolling Pinterest for great packing ideas
  • Planning to label my 2 quart jars at the new house with paint markers like this.  Isn’t it cute?  Here are the markers: Sharpie Oil Paint Marker
  • Painting, painting, painting– most of the main level is done, and the upstairs has been started.
  • Wrapping lots and lots of Christmas gifts.  Trying hard to keep up with the Christmas prep in the middle of the packing to move.
  • Getting far enough in packing that I am beginning to have the dreaded ‘misc’ boxes– just jumbles of odds and ends still sitting in corners in various rooms.
  • Cooking most of our dinners either on stovetop or in the turkey roaster, since our oven broke and we’re waiting to buy a new one until we move.  There’s a tater tot casserole in the turkey roaster as I type– hooray for freezer food! It’s dinner and then off to work around here.
  • Once this move gets done I look forward to blogging a little more often.  But it may be quiet around here during the busyness that is bound to be happening in the next couple weeks. Hope all is well with you and that you are enjoying your Christmas preparations!


Bonus hours

What with moving in 17 days— 17, people!– and Christmas in 24, I’ve been wishing I could find some bonus hours in the day somehow. Well, this morning I was granted my wish. After working night shift all weekend (and sleeping the subsequent days), this morning I woke up at 4 AM completely unable to go back to sleep.  So I’m just going with it.   There might be a nap this afternoon.  But for now I am mapping out all sorts of things that I’d like to accomplish today.

On the agenda:tater tot casserole

  • Bring the van  to Wal-mart to jump start my car which decided to die there last evening.  Bah.
  • Empty more kitchen cabinets and get more things packed away into the storage unit.
  • Take down the upper cabinets over the stove top, so that my husband can install the new range hood we bought to update the look of the kitchen.
  • Make 3 tater tot casseroles to freeze as easy meals for busy days in the next few weeks.
  • Gather paperwork needed from the bank for our house closing.  (Did I mention that’s in 17 days??  Eeek!)
  • Put up the Christmas tree and finish other decorating here.
  • Decide what to make for family dinner on Saturday.

Meanwhile despite all the busyness, I keep finding myself wandering over to Pinterest thinking of various projects I am hoping to do in the new house. One fun idea is a minimalist sideboard in the dining area that (with bar stools) could double as a school desk for the girls, or be used to serve food when we are having a big crowd over.  Here are two versions of it that I really like.

Shabby Chic

Shabby Chic

Clean Lines

Clean Lines














And then just for fun, here’s an easy peasy table decor idea for Christmas. The only problem would be keeping the kids out of the treats, I think! How are you doing this week? How are you preparing for Christmas?